I’ve made reading such a habit now, that I’m starting to build a little library in my spare / writing room and I love nothing more than finishing one book and hitting the shelves to select my next one. It’s a good addiction though, right?
Last week I went shopping in Waterstones during their sale and as I picked up books I wanted to buy I realised I had no plain idea if I’d already purchased the books or not. I had to flick back through my Instagram feed to see some pics of book piles I’d posted to check whether they were already in my possession.
Books are like little dreams of my future, snapshots of who I want to be, the conversations I want to hold, a person who turns around and says – yes I read that and loved it. Or no, I thought this about it and sound very intelligent setting out my literary argument.
I’m keeping up the mix of reading – my preference is for literary, or anything that is written in an interesting way, with beautiful language. I try to review the books I’m sent too, which have been appearing on my doorstep regularly and vary in their genre.
This winter though I purchased all the books featured, except for the audio book which was borrowed from the library. Next post, I will have some review books. This season, I’d a great batch and I really enjoyed my recent reading. I hope you do too, should you decide to dive into these.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
I was dying to read this book and had no idea what to expect from it. The first I’d come across it was seeing that ‘Sweary Lady’ had won an award for the novel on Twitter. I’d followed the Sweary Lady blog years ago was thrilled to see that a high profile blogger had made the transition to award winning literary fiction writer. I got into it pretty quickly, I loved the language and the writing. Anything that makes me re-read sentences purely because of their composition or the language and words used appeals to all my writery senses. It wasn’t an easy read however. There were parts that were so gritty, I found myself not wanting to reach for it in the evening. This may be because I’m expecting a baby (so violence really disturbs me) or because I wanted to read something nicer before bedtime. If you’ve seen the Irish programme Love Hate – which follows a crime and drug scene in the heartland of Dublin, then this book is very comparable to that, but set in Cork. I did wonder at times how the author knew about the lives described – it was dark, and brutal, but also, I imagine, very true to life. If I had a criticism it would be that I didn’t really like any of the characters. By that that I mean, they all had flaws, so much so that I couldn’t warm to any one that I was rooting for them. I think this was done on purpose, to mirror the world they were living in and to make it interesting. I can see how it scooped the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction this year – and I’ll be looking forward to the next presentation from McInerney. I’ll need to leave my softness at the front cover though.
They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan
I became friends with Cat before I even got to buy her book. We started chatting one day on Twitter – I’ve no idea how, and I noticed she had her agent’s details on her Twitter profile. Long story short, we now share the same agent, so I was very excited to see her book published and to get to read it. I couldn’t make it to the launch due to illness (the early weeks of pregnancy – let’s never think on them again) but we have managed to meet up since and it’s safe to say we get on like two little houses on fire. They All Fall Down is set in Wexford where Cat is from and follows the relationships between a small set of friends who are facing contemporary issues including debt, suicide and marriage break up. A character called Scott appears on the scene who starts to ruffle a few feathers and it’s hard to know which way he will turn or what way the story will go, due to his unpredictability. I enjoyed the book, I read it pretty fast and it a was a good antidote to the heresies, even though it wasn’t light in itself. I particularly liked Jen’s love interest Andy – he was somebody I wanted to marry in real life! He was solid, unlike the aforementioned Scott who carries an air of evil and disturbance about him. I know Cat is busy working on book two so it’ll be interesting to see where she goes next with the characters she’s created.
Unravelling Oliver – Liz Nugent
It’s been impossible to escape the Liz Nugent book love bubble that Ireland has built around one of its most popular authors in recent times. Winning two Irish books awards two years in a row, firmly cemented the former theatre director and television writer in the reading psyches of the nation and when I saw her chat at the most recent book awards, her charisma, charm and humour were so abundant I went straight out and bought Unravelling Oliver, her debut novel. The book was thinner than I expected, it’s only about 200 pages long, but what a dream to read. Each chapter is broken down into a different character view point and you are told the story of what becomes a violent relationship between famous children’s writer Oliver Ryan his rather meek wife Alice. I was absorbed from the first page. That voice that you look for in a writer, that way with words, that writing style – well here it is. I expected that the book would stay in Ireland – it starts off with Irish characters in a somewhat gloomy Irish setting, but takes twists and turns that lead you outside of Ireland, through an array of characters and a twisty plot that did not end up where I expected it. A completely absorbing read. Looking forward to reading her next book, which has already made huge waves, Lying in Wait.
Before I Met You – Lisa Jewell
I continued my audio book sweep with Lisa Jewell’s Before I Met You. It was a long book and took me a few weeks to get through – with my shortish commute to work. Although I found the pace a bit slow in parts (and the voices a bit annoying – especially the breathy people) I did really enjoy the book especially towards the end when the plot threads of the story were gathered together. The book follows two main characters – Betty, set in the 90s and Arlette, her grandmother (kindof) through the 1920s. I enjoyed the 1990s narration – bringing me back to a time of payphones and making plans in advance. (I’ll meet you next Friday at 9.30pm in this exact bar, don’t be late!) but I preferred the flashbacks to historical London, to a time when the jazz clubs were swinging and large grand houses hadn’t been chopped up into dingy apartments yet. Jewell is a very talented writer and I found her characters believable, warm and I was rooting for them. I think the whole book could have been shorter, there was a lot of build up in the beginning that perhaps could have been left out, as well as range of characters that pop up for a short time that may not play a part in the story. Still it led to an interesting and realistic read- we all meet people in our lives daily that don’t have much impact on our lives, and this felt like a real book – where someone had to get on with the realities of bills and work and romance. The mystery weaved throughout was brilliant, I was dying to know what happened in the end, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Looking forward to reading more from Jewell.
The Accidental Wife by Orla McAlinden
I’d heard about this book earlier in the summer and knew that Orla was up for a short story award in he Irish Book Awards this year – which she went on to win. As Margaret Madden from Bleach House Library book blog was recommending it to me and in fact provided the actual copy for me to read, I knew it was going to be good. It was more than good, it was excellent. It’s a bit of a strange one in that I’d been told it was a collection of short stories, but at the start, it read to me like a novel. It was only as I got into it that things changed and different characters and stories were presented and the brevity and twists of the short story presented themselves. It was then that I felt I was back reading a short story collection. There were a few things I really loved about this book. 1) Its capturing of the North of Ireland – the thoughts, intonations, mindset of the many generations who faced years of unrest and the aftermath of the troubles. 2) The reflection of people’s characters and getting inside their minds – I particularly liked the male characters and how they were drawn 3) The different stories and not knowing where you were going next, they were all brilliantly written 4) The final story – Bleeding. My favourite by far – because I didn’t expect what came! It’s left me thinking that perhaps all novels should read like a collection of short stories – that every chapter should stand alone as a terrific piece of prose. It’s really inspired me to try that in my own writing. Orla releases a historical fiction novel soon called The Flight of the Wren and after this collection, I’ll definitely be putting it on the TBR list.
I really want to read They all Fall Down too. And I read Before I Met a few years ago and liked it. But the Lisa Jewell book that I really recommend is The House I Grew Up In, that one really blew me away.
Really? I had it in my hand in the library the other day and put it back as I knew I wouldn’t get through it with the time I’d left on my commute. But I’ll def read it on your recommendation now!